Because of the international glare trained on Iraq and its collateral effects, the extraordinary and systematic forays the Bush administration has launched in North and West Africa remain partly in the shade.
A DEBKA-Net-Weekly special inquiry finds that these ventures – albeit still in progress – add up to the start of a major geopolitical transformation of this continent, important enough to rank as the second half of Washington’s program for the remaking of the Middle East.
This will be no desert mirage. As North African temperatures cool toward the end of summer or early fall – and perhaps even earlier – George W. Bush will set off on an official visit to Libya. He will walk down the ramp of Air Force One to be greeted by a lone figure resplendent in an azure silken robe shot through with gold thread. Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi will be reveling in his new persona as reformed terrorist, whose offer to scrap his country’s weapons of mass destruction bought his country international acceptance.
Their handshake will be living proof to a skeptical world that the Middle East revolution Bush promised in mid-2002 before invading Iraq has taken off and is turning a profit negotiable in campaign coin: Iraq conquered, Saddam Hussein deposed and captured and, defying all expectations, Al Qaeda prevented – thus far – from making good on its vows to repeat its 9/11 attacks in the United States, as well as Europe and the Middle East. This, of course, could change. There is no telling what is up Osama bin Laden’s sleeve.
Nonetheless, the American president hopes his trips will set the seal on seismic military and political movement in the Middle East – but also in key regions of northern and eastern Africa. Borders will be shifting – notably for Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan – while Egypt and Saudi Arabia fade as the regional bosses – as will be shown further down in this article. The Bush administration is deep in the work of quietly redrawing the post-colonial maps of Africa, the Gulf, the Middle East and Central Asia, to create the most drastic geopolitical transformations since the Cold War ended, a fact scarcely touched on in the presidential State of the Union address on Tuesday, January, 20. The triumphs are being set aside for later.
(See attached map of spreading US influence in Africa and Middle East)
If elected for a second term, Bush will continue to drive forward along tracks cutting deep into those regions and radiating out from the Middle East, Washington’s current foreign and security policy hub and the cockpit of its global war on terror.
One unmentioned upshot of the new ventures is that the oil resources of Iraq, Sudan and Libya will come under American control with the concomitant effect of weakening OPEC.
Aides are working hard on the fine details of the Bush visit to Libya, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Washington, the Middle East and North Africa. It will probably last three days. The Secret Service responsible for the president’s safety has yet to decide whether to allow him to attend a state dinner in one of Qaddafi’s gorgeous desert oasis tents where he receives most favored guests of state – unless, of course, the Libyan leader opts for the symbolism of a state banquet in honor of the US president at Libya’s armed forces general headquarters. That was the site US warplanes bombed in 1986 at the behest of a former Republican president, Ronald Reagan, killing one of Qaddafi’s adopted daughters and putting him to flight covered in dust. It was a surprise reprisal for the terrorist bombing sponsored by Qaddafi at the La Belle disco, a favorite Berlin hangout of American intelligence and military troops, in which two US servicemen and a Turkish woman died.
The teams preparing the president’s trip have so far agreed on two features:
It will be a state visit configured well in advance as a major feather in the presidential cap and a centerpiece of his campaign trail.
Bush will follow up his Tripoli spectacular with a visit to Khartoum, billed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Washington and Sudan as eye-catching as the Libyan trip. He will celebrate America’s momentous success in bringing one of Africa’s most intractable conflicts, Sudan’s bloody 21-year civil war, to an end, together with President Umar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir and the man Washington has slated as vice president, the rebel leader, John Garang, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) of the south. This see-saw revolt against the Muslim-dominated government in the north was fought for autonomy for the mostly Christian or animist south. The conflict cost some two million lives, displaced some four million people and brought oil-rich Sudan to the brink of penury and famine.
Former US senator and successful Sudan peace broker John Danforth anticipates winding up the Nairobi peace conference by the end of January or early February. He has reported to the White House that the two sides have settled most points at issue over the division of Sudan’s natural resources – especially oil. They are close to finalizing agreement on power sharing within the central government in Khartoum and the disposition of three small disputed territories in the south – the central Nuba mountains, the southern Blue Nile State and the oil-rich Abyai district.
Sudan’s natural resources were just as much an issue in the civil conflict as ethnic and religious causes and equally promise to be the key to its future prosperity. In January 2003, this Nile state’s proven oil resources stood at 563 m barrels. Output of 300,000 bpd is expected to rise to an estimated 450,000 in 2005 once the country is pacified and rebel attacks on oil installations a thing of the past.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports that designating Garang vice president is part of the arrangement governing the disposition of Sudan’s oil. The Abyai district will come under “presidential” control on the basis of half and half shares in national oil resources between Bashir and Garang. Bush is looking forward to the two former foes walking alongside him on the red carpet and inspecting the airport honor guard together, a signal to the entire continent that President Bush of the United States alone had the mojo for bringing Christians and Muslims to embrace peace and coexistence in place of implacable enmity.
He will also make it clear that Washington will be keeping a friendly eye on the former enemies to make sure they keep on cooperating.
On Friday, January 16, Danforth said in Nairobi:: “I want to say publicly that our interest in Sudan is sustained. It’s been going for a period of time. We want to be involved as best we can, not only until this agreement is signed, but thereafter as well.”
In more than one respect, the Sudanese peace and power-sharing pact could be an even more effective campaign booster than Qaddafi’s repentance. The Christians, who make up a quarter of Sudan’s population of 37 million, were long supported by conservative Christian groups in the United States whose votes Bush will be soliciting. Their championship will be vindicated by a settlement that gives the Christian minority of Sudan the victory of a place in the sun.
Even better, according to our sources, the peace accord is revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources as incorporating a secret rider between the Sudanese and US presidents – known to Garang – which undertakes to remove the Shariya, or Islamic law, from the constitutional basis of government.
For the first time ever, American diplomacy will have succeeded in converting a country dominated by radical Muslims – in Sudan’s case since the 17th century – into a secular democracy – in a period, moreover, when fundamentalist Islam is at its most militant. The Sudanese settlement will be Bush’s riposte to Arabs, Europeans and those Africa and Middle East experts who insisted America was wasting its time trying to introduce religious and democratic reforms into those regions. Against whoever wins the Democratic race for the presidency, Bush will be able to hold up his success in Khartoum as a living model for Baghdad and a draw for grateful American Christians.
Bush also has a special occasion in mind with an eye on the African American vote where his support is relatively weak. He will step forward as the first US president to plunge deep and head-on into the problems endemic to the African continent. The Sudan peace will show the way to accommodations of other conflicts. He has allocated liberal sums for the fight against AIDS and steps for raising the standard of living of hundreds of millions of Africans. On the agenda too is a highly evocative ritual at the White House at which Sudan’s president will solemnly forswear his country’s murky past as recruiter of slaves for America and the Arab caravans carrying African slaves around the world.
If the US president has his way, the White House lawn will be fully booked this year with ceremonies centering on the Sudanese reconciliation, which he rates more highly than the Israel-Palestinian handshake hosted by Bill Clinton eleven years ago.
“It has to be a ceremony even more impressive than the 1993 White House signing of declarations of principles by Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat,” said a senior US official preparing the event. “It will be an ‘African Camp David’, but one that will not fail.”
Until the beginning of this week, peace broker Danforth was in a hurry to wrap up the Nairobi accord in time for the Sudanese president’s visit to the White House in two weeks.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Washington, there has been a change in this timetable. Instead of rushing the visit forward, Bush’s advisers want more leisure to prepare a truly gala reception for the Sudanese leaders, the first of a whole series of events showcasing the presidency’s stunning breakthroughs in Africa in full sight of the American electorate and culminating in a splashy signing ceremony in March or April.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice has set up a committee with heads of the African American community. Working out of an undisclosed location in Los Angeles, they will assess the next moves on Sudan and their impact on voting patterns in November.
As Danforth’s mission draws to a successful conclusion, the president’s senior political adviser Karl Rove has taken charge of strategy on Sudan and its exploitation as campaign fodder.